‘I certify that the patient below is alive’: GPs sick of sick notes
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‘I certify that the patient below is alive’: GPs sick of sick notes

Credit: Belga

An ongoing reliance on the so-called ‘doctor’s note’ has left practitioners in the country inundated with low priority requests, as they are called upon to help people get new wigs, claim they are hurt, or even prove they are alive.

In an op-ed on VRT, several Belgian GPs have signed a letter speaking out against the overwhelming number of doctor’s notes required of them in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, calling for a revamp of the system which sees them taking time away from vital services.

Motivated by the decree that clients with a hair work or wigs can have it replaced or cleaned if they have a prescription from their family doctor, the number of requests for doctor’s notes and prescriptions have skyrocketed, according to the GPs.

“I will not leave my patients who really need me out in the cold, but it is becoming increasingly difficult because of the abundance of unnecessary administration,” wrote Sophie Van Steenbergen, chair of Jong Domus, adding that GPs are already drowning in work due to the coronavirus and catching up on delayed care.

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The requests for doctor’s certificate for wigs or extensions are part of the so-called ‘umbrella certificates’ – to cover organisations against liability claims – are increasing rapidly, with “tragicomic” results, according to Van Steenbergen.

Certificates like “I declare that the patient below has broken her leg and has to use the lift at school”, “I certify that the patient below is alive” (for life insurance) or “I declare that the patient below is medically fit to fish” are not exceptions, she said.

It is “high time” that the authorities clarify and limit the circumstances in which a medical certificate can be demanded from the attending physician, according to the Order of Physicians.

“Since March, we at Jong Domus have been fighting against unnecessary administration (a feat, I can assure you) and last week, a working group was set up with the other doctors’ syndicates BVAS, ASGB and AADM,” said Van Steenbergen.

“Together, we are going for a thorough reform of the administrative burden, so that quality care can continue to come first,” she added.

The Brussels Times